Cotton ball color mixing!

If you haven’t ever tried cotton ball color mixing with your students, then let me encourage you to give it a go! It is such a simple process and yet engaging to a mixed age group of students. Here is how it works…

The invitation

The invitation to explore colors and color mixing with cotton balls is definitely inviting all by itself. My students didn’t hesitate to head on over and get right to work.

Most of the children began by putting one color on each cotton ball. I noticed at this stage, their focus was on color and absorption. What would happen if I put the red water on the cotton ball. A little science!

I eventually invited some of the children to see what might happen to the color if they put more than one color on a cotton ball.

The more color the children added, the more they could see the colors mix together.

All throughout the morning the children stopped by to explore the process. Often times, coming back around for a second or third look at our color mixing station. When the cotton balls were full of color, I simply rinsed off the tray and set up a new tray with cotton balls to start up again. I purposely left the cotton balls spread out so the children would be more thoughtful in the coloring process rather than color a whole clump of cotton balls at once. Super simple to set up and keep it up!

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By |2017-02-19T00:01:40+00:00January 30th, 2017|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Nina England January 31, 2017 at 10:38 am - Reply

    Perfect! I have been looking for a way to mix colors with out wasting a lot of materials or having to big of a mess and this solves it! Thanks so much for sharing! I look forward to following 😉

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 31, 2017 at 9:02 pm - Reply

      Thank you Nina!

  2. Chris January 31, 2017 at 11:55 pm - Reply

    I will have to try this! We mix primary colors in test tubes, and this is a great next step. How many children did you have in the class, Deborah, and how many cotton balls did you end up using?

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 1, 2017 at 12:06 am - Reply

      Hi Chris! We had 23 on this day and didn’t even go through a whole bag but you need to spread the cotton balls out so they take more time – not leave them in a clump:)

  3. Randi February 1, 2017 at 8:43 am - Reply

    Where did you get your trays for the cotton balls and the one for the water color cups? Thanks for sharing. I’ve usually done water color mixing in small cups with water and I really like this twist!!

  4. Renee Porter February 3, 2017 at 11:55 am - Reply

    This week we did color mixing in ice cube trays. This could be another way to extend it next week with something different. I like the idea of them getting to see the absorption into the cotton ball. Thanks for the idea.

  5. Leigh Bell February 5, 2017 at 10:40 am - Reply

    What kind of paint did you use in the cups? Thank you! Love the idea of using the pipettes to pick up the colour!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 5, 2017 at 10:50 am - Reply

      The children are using colored water. We used liquid water color to color the water but food color would also work.

  6. Sue February 10, 2017 at 11:26 pm - Reply

    Love this idea, Deborah. I, too, like the trays you’re using, perfect for this project and others. Care to share where we might find? I also listened to the BAM discussion about blocks and was delighted to hear they’re still recommended for classrooms! If I could only have one toy for my students, blocks would be my pick.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 10, 2017 at 11:32 pm - Reply

      I feel exactly the same way Sue. I can’t imagine a classroom without blocks!

  7. […] You can also use cotton balls to boost art projects.  Use a cotton ball in a clothespin, tweezers, or between fingers for an interesting paint brush (and developing fine motor skills).  Gently pull apart cotton balls and glue onto paper for a cool cloud or snow effect.  Explore colors with cotton ball color mixing. […]

  8. Tammy December 31, 2018 at 10:24 am - Reply

    Please tell me where to buy the trays. I love these. Thank you

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